Maharashtra is the richest state in India and the second most populous. It is surrounded by Gujarat, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, the Arabian Sea, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa. Its capital city is the financial capital of the subcontinent, Mumbai. Its land area covers 307 731 square kilometres.

Although there exist written records of Maharashtra dating back to the 3rd century BCE (Before our Common Era), not much is really known about its ancient history. It was ruled by the very powerful Mauryan Empire, which was then conquered by the Satavahanas. In the 6th century CE (Common Era), it was governed by the Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas, and then by the Chalukayas in the 900’s and the Yadavas in the 1100’s. As Islamic migrants from Arabia and other areas settled in India, they introduced the religion of Islam. The Portuguese annexed Maharashtra as part of their quest to colonise the land for its many resources (such as spices and textiles). As with much of the rest of India, the British Empire eventually gained ownership right until 1947, when India got political independence. Maharashtra was granted statehood in 1960.

The emerald Arabian Sea constitutes the west coast of Maharashtra, while the hills of the Western Ghats run parallel to this coastline. Included in the geography of this state are the Deccan Plateau and the Konkan Plains. There are several major rivers running through Maharashtra, which are key to the sustenance of the communities, particularly those in rural areas. Forested areas are abundant, adding to the beauty and wealth of the state. The many natural areas are home to a wide variety of plants and animals. However, pollution, poaching and the ever-increasing development and industrialisation are all threatening these natural gems. Therefore, Maharashtra has established several protected areas in which these species are preserved and cared for in their natural habitat. Wildlife species living in these areas include lions, bears,
Image of Gateway to India monument in Mumbai, India
Gateway to India monument in Mumbai, India
leopards, tigers, antelope and a plethora of intriguing bird species. Many of these protected areas include tiger sanctuaries, such as Tadoba Andhari Tiger Project and the Melghat Tiger Reserve (also known as Gugamal National Park).

The economy is supported by large industrial and manufacturing entities. However, this area is also particularly famous for its contribution to Bollywood, India’s film industry. In fact, it is based in Mumbai, making this the home of many Indian celebrities (actors, directors, screenwriters, and so on).

Maharashtra has a population of about 100 million people, most of whom speak the state’s official language, Marathi. Other languages spoken by the many are English, Hindi and Gujarati. There are some dialects spoken by minority groups in certain areas. More than 80% of the residents are Hindu, while Muslims make up about 10%. This state has the largest population of Jains and Jews in the whole of the subcontinent.

The people from Maharashtra are a nation particularly proud of their heritage. The architecture and buildings tell tales of their history, and are a delight to explore, as are the various forts. They have developed their own form of folk music, which differ considerably between the rural and the urban areas.

Tourist must-sees include:
• The Elephanta Caves
• Aurangabad
• The caves of Ajanta and Ellora
• The Mahabaleshwar, Lonavala and Khandala hill stations
• Pench National Park

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